It’s not immediately obvious to casual readers of this blog, but I’ve actually been kind of burnt out of writing this and this is my first entry in six months. There’s a huge backlog, and every day that passes with the photos on my phone the memory of each meal becomes fainter and fainter.
That said, I have been able to work up the spoons to describe this solid pho I had in Bankstown today after a five star plastics clinic appointment (and overall patient experience from the moment my cat bit me to now – I made sure that adequate and effusive shout outs were made to all the registrars and residents involved in the case on the official patient feedback form) at Auburn Hospital.
This Pho Dac Biet ($20) was on the more expensive side of things, but had a great depth and richness of flavour to the broth, and was brimming with all the requisite meat and meat products including tripe, tendon, rare beef, brisket, beef ball, and bone. This was a far cry from those fake special phos where they mix up rare beef, brisket, and beef balls and call it a day, this was a real special pho, and really good. The serving size was ample, and importantly had ample hotness to warm up all of the herbs and bean sprouts that I stashed within it.
This was a quality bowl at a high price, one of the only offerings on their limited English menu laminated and stuck to the wall next to my table. There were multiple other non-pho menus in non-English languages throughout the restaurant, but for me, this was enough.
To their credit, card was accepted with no surcharge.
I’m glad, after suffering at the hands of numerous recent misses as well as the recent though delayed news of the loss of Parramatta favourite Lee Chef that we found a place like Pho Ha Noi Quan to fill the pho shaped hole in our lives.
The combination beef pho ($18) was an excellent triumph in comparison to other recent contenders, especially our recent expensive bowl from Got Pho in Carlingford. Two good things stood out about this Phở Dặc Biệt. First was the fact that this bowl of special beef pho was actually special, featuring a full complement of rare beef, brisket, balls, tripe, and tendon, rather than just the mix of beef, brisket and balls that seem to be more universally palatable. The presence of bits that weren’t strictly meat was something that I missed from Lee Chef as well as multiple other phos we’ve had recently, and the melt-in-your-mouth gelatinous texture of the beef tendon as well as the crunchy omasum were definitely most pleasurable and welcome. The other excellent quality of this particular bowl in comparison with others was its sheer thermal mass. This was a large serving (single size only) with a large volume of high temperature liquid, which meant that the soup was able to heat up all of the large volume of bean sprouts and Thai basil whilst retaining good warmth and open flavours of the broth. My only complaints about this bowl of pho are that I did not love the balls (though my partner gladly ate the vast majority of them), and I thought the soup was on the saltier side of the spectrum. Otherwise a job well done.
The pork chop noodle soup ($18) was a rice noodle soup in a rich chicken-based broth, a little oilier and probably a little saltier than the beef pho, and served with some bok choy mixed into the soup. The pork chop was served sliced on the side, fried with a bit of fish sauce flavour. My partner purposely sabotagued this review by giving me only lean bits of pork, which was not great for the taste and texture but ultimately better for me in my day two post laparoscopic cholecystectomy state. I didn’t love it, but apparently there were some fatty and juicy bits of pork that she had kept from me (for my own good).
I did not know about these green garlics, which challenged and scared me.
OVERALL I thought this was a very decent bowl of pho that I would like to have again.
Pho Ha Noi Quan Marrickville 346B Illawarra Rd, Marrickville NSW 2204 (02) 8018 4928
Our first attempt at brunch at Coffee & Crackles was thwarted when we arrived at 1:30PM on a weekday and were told that they weren’t serving food at that time. It was during a period of transition, the cafe having recently undergone a rebranding and merger with its co-located night-time eatery and bar Saigon Hustle.
The café part of the joint venture clearly lost the aesthetic fight int he merger, with only the small shopfront lit in natural light, the rest of the restaurant coated in dark paint, neon lights and scrolling projections.
This pricing of this crackling pork banh mi ($13) had me a bit conflicted when I ordered it. On one hand, while I believe that our migrant communities deserve to be compensated for the work that they do and the food that they serve and that it’s a double standard to pay $30 for a plate of pasta or $20 for three ravioli and only want to pay $3.50 for a banh mi, $13 is still a bit much compared to what I’m used to. That’s not to say that, taken outside of the context of what we generally pay for banh mi in Sydney that it wasn’t worth it. This banh mi was certainly high quality. The bread was warm and freshly toasted. It was crusty in a way that was tasty and crunchy, and yet somehow didn’t cut the inside of the mouth – honestly one of the best rolls I’ve had. The five spice pork filling was plentiful, as were the pickled daikon radish and carrots, making each bite both a meaty and a fresh delight. The generous serving of pate and Vietnamese mayonnaise imparted a good sense of umami and creaminess throughout the roll, with no corner spared. The pork crackling was separate from the pork meat, and distributed unevenly between the two pre-cut halves of the sandwich as the crackling was on the exterior surface and the sandwich was sliced diagonally. The crackling did impart an unnecessary saltiness to the bites where it made a showing, and perhaps less salt could have been used in its preparation. The chips, which were a surprise addition to the meal, I could’ve done without to save a couple of dollars. They were actually quite good – freshly fried and of potato in nature – but honestly if I wanted more food I’d just order a second banh mi, which I feel are a higher plane of enjoyment over regular fries.
The Bo Ne Sizzling Beef ($23) was also quite good. It featured a small MB2 wagyu steak, some kind of sausage or processed meat, liver pate, sauteed onions and a sunny side up egg served on a sizzling hot plate, with a separate plate of toasted oiled bread, cucumbers, and cherry tomatoes. I’m far from an expert on bo ne, with my only previous experience to this point being the bo ne at Diem Hen in Canley Vale. Given that I don’t have much of a standard to judge against, I can only describe to you this dish in absolute terms.
The steak was cooked medium rare, tender and juicy, though the first bites were better than the last bites as it continued to cook a little on the hot plate as we ate. The live pate was some of the best I’ve had, and my partner especially enjoyed it caramelised on the hot plate. The egg was cooked to a degree of sunny side up perfection that I’ve never achieved, which is kind of crazy to me since presumably they just got the plate up to temp, took it off the heat and cracked it on. I don’t know exactly what the sausage like substance on the right side of the plate was – it was similar to siu cheong that you might get at a Cantonese BBQ shop – but it was quite nice with a bit of sweetness. The onion in this dish was in one corner rather than throughout the entire dish like at Diem Hen, which I preferred as it meant I could be the one deciding which mouthfuls I wanted onioned or unonioned. The bread was again freshly toasted and just great, excellent to pair with some pate or tasty sausage.
OTHER THOUGHTS All in all I enjoyed my visit to Coffee & Crackles, even if certain items on their previous menu, for example their bo kho tacos, were no longer available after the merger. Saigon Hustle looks to have a pretty interesting Vietnamese fusion menu for dinner though, so I’d like to come back at night some time in the future.
Beloved Marrickville Vietnamese restaurant Pho PhD didn’t blow my mind, and that’s OK.
The Pho Beef Special ($19) was absolutely reasonable, but not the best I’ve ever had. The serving size was actually quite large, even for the regular serving, but I didn’t feel as wowed as I have been at some restaurants by the complexity of their beef balls. I am spoiled by 2 Foodies, which to date is still my favourite pho, even though I understand it’s not the most traditional rendition out there. Now there’s a place I would award a PhD to in terms of original research and a genuine contribution to mankind’s understanding of the world around us.
This Crispy Chicken with Tomato Rice ($18.50) was pretty good, no complaints from me. It has an adequately crispy skin with a moist interior, I don’t necessarily think that Sydney has an absolute crispy skin chicken king.
This Lemongrass Pork Chop ($8) was the best thing I had of the night, very well priced, and well flavoured. You save a considerable amount of money if you just order the pork chop without the rice, and we already had plenty of rice from the crispy skin chicken and tomato rice dish to go around. Yum.
OVERALL THOUGHTS Pho PhD is a very busy eatery, seemingly popular with the inner-West late 20s crowd, as we happened to run into (and successfully avoid eye contac with0 someone we went to high school with. Their food was not mind blowing, but of a reasonable staple quality. Personally given the wide range of Vietnamese restaurants in Marrickville that I’ve yet to try, I think I will eat around before I think about going back.
We had a really nice meal at Ngoodle, nice in the sense that the food and service were both very good, but not in the sense that it was overwhelmingly expensive with unnecessary flourishes. It was exactly the perfect kind of niceness for South East Asian cuisine.
We went on the recommendation of the crispy chicken laksa ($19.50), which some guy on the internet said was more expensive than but better than that of Hunter St’s (now relocated to Ashfield, actually) Malay Chinese Takeaway. The laksa was delicious, with such a complex and aromatic arrangement of herbs and spices, and perfect vermicelli. The laksa stood strongly alone without any additional protein, whilst the crispy chicken maryland was juicy and crispy and tender. The combination of the two was of unclear benefit to me, as putting it in the laksa kind of ruined the crispiness of it. I think perhaps a combination or seafood laksa might’ve been the way to go instead, but nonetheless this was a good bowl.
The Pork Chop Dry Noodles ($18) were excellent. The pork chop was a little bit sweet, super tasty with a crispy and melt-in-your-mouth quality. It reminded me of the marmite pork from Albee’s, but just better in most ways. The dry noodles were quite stiff, but pretty good with the sweet dressing and the vegetables – ultimately though the pork chop was the star of this show. It is probably the best fried Asian pork chop I’ve had.
These spring rolls (4 for $7) were super packed with meat and taro, not bad, and good with dipping sauce.
COMMENTS My partner was really impressed with the main lady working at the front, we thought she might be the owner. She speaks multiple, multiple languages (Vietnamese, Mandarin, Cantonese, English – and those were just the ones we heard over the course of our 45 minute meal), was super attentive to us filling our carafe up with filtered water with a fresh leaf of mint, and seemed to have a really good relationship and even friendship with her regular customers.
Respect, and can definitely recommend.
Ngoodle 234 Liverpool Rd, Ashfield NSW 2131 0490 733 750